There are key criteria, which are likely to dictate the type of international move, which is right for you. These are primarily size and time frame.
If you are not in a hurry to receive your shipment, then this presents options. However beware of telling moving companies “I don’t mind how long it takes.” Online forums are full of complaints where shipments expected to move door-to-door in a few weeks eventually arrived at destination after 5 or 6 months! So it is important to establish an approximate time frame with your movers so that expectations are met.
For shipments of less than 2-3 cubic meters (70-100 cubic feet), air is probably your cheapest option. Air shipments are charged based on airline chargeable weight, which means the volume of the shipment can affect the final charges. Avoid sending bulky items. Also be wary of sending highly fragile items and handling by airline/customs officials can be careless.
Summary – Ideal for relatively small shipments or shipments required relatively soon after you arrival at destination. Talk to movers, but also courier/express companies or even the post office. All of whom may be able to offer some kind of door to door airfreight service.
Shipments ranging between 3-20 cubic meters, (100-700 cubic feet), most often fall into the shared container category since the volume does not necessarily require the use of your own dedicated container. There are generally two types of shared container shipments.
LCL (Less than a Container Load) – Your mover will pack your goods and typically outsource the freight of the shipment to a third party consolidator. This tends to mean the shipment is dispatched in a timely fashion but does involve third party charges, which can result in a disproportionately high cost.
Groupage / Consolidation – In this type of shared container scenario your mover is grouping together several shipments which are all destined to the same country/area. The advantage is the handling and freight costs are shared between several shipments/shippers, which can provide a real saving. However the mover will not dispatch the shipment until they are certain of a full container, so if your shipment is the first of a new groupage container, it could take a number of weeks (or possibly months) before the container is filled and dispatched. This is the compromise you make for a competitive price, but some movers are deliberately vague about timings, so try to pin them down as much as you can on time frame.
Summary – LCL if you want to ensure the shipment leaves quickly or if you are moving to an unusual destination. Groupage if you are in a a position where you can be flexible about shipments arrival.
The term ‘Full container’ really means, your own dedicated container, (which may or may not be completely full).
As a general guideline;
20-30 cubic meters, (700-1,050 cubic feet) = 20 ft container
31-63 cubic meters, (1,085-2,225 cubic feet) = 40 ft container
64-72 cubic meters, (2,260-2,545 cubic feet) = 40 ft high container
For anyone moving most/all items from a family home, then a dedicated container is generally the best/only option. The goods will not be loaded into the container until just prior to shipping, which means if you intend to store your goods at origin, then you will not see the goods loaded. If you do not require storage at origin, and assuming access to your residence permits, try to ensure the moving company loads your container directly at residence. You can then witness all the goods safely loaded and sealed in your presence. This really helps piece of mind, especially if you are in a position to receive the container directly to your residence at destination.
Summary – This is the safest option available, primarily because of the control element of the move. The container is shipped in a direct manner, and goods remain in the controlled environment of the container meaning handling is kept to an absolute minimum.